First published April 2005
by David Sullivan
This short article is aimed at Computer Forensic Professionals based in the UK who are considering looking for a new job.
A number of the posts on Forensic Focus relate to job opportunities and as a recruiter operating in this field, it is fascinating to see just how quickly the sector is developing and the opportunities this creates for people who make the best decisions. The correct decision now will transform your future, but does that necessarily mean making a move from where you are at the moment? Many CF people I have spoken with have found that looking at the opportunities available has helped motivate them more in their current role as it has made them realise that what they have got is in fact very valuable and that the grass isn’t actually greener elsewhere.
Be clear in your own mind why you are thinking of moving at this time. A large number of the CF professionals who approach me need more responsibility and having explored the current and potential options in their own organisation have decided that the opportunities just don’t exist. The other main (and often related) reason I see for people moving within CF – especially for those earning below GBP50,000 – is money. For example, a common dilemma is a talented and ambitious Police CF expert looking for a salary increase. What do you do: Set up on your own? Move to one of the larger organisations? Join ex-colleagues who made the move in the last few years in their small operation that has potential for growth? Apply to another Government Agency? Or do you stay in the Police Service, where you love the work, and hope to progress? I know of one exceptional case where a CF professional in this position made the move to a smaller private company – purely to increase his salary – and he doubled his salary within 18 months. However, although significant increases can occur this is not usually the case. If salary is your primary reason for changing job then be aware that a new employer is unlikely to offer an increase to your initial basic salary of more than 10-25%. With the loss of benefits, such as overtime, this can often mean a slight salary drop in real terms, but, of course, the real judgement to be made here is future earning potential and career progression. A large bonus and a quick promotion in your new company and your previous salary is a distant memory but this is by no means guaranteed. In the end it is your call.
Whatever your motivation for making a move, if you do decide to look seriously at the market there are some basic points that you need to consider:
– Update (or create) your CV. ‘Experts’ charge a fortune for doing this but with the amount of information available on the Internet about how to produce an effective CV I’m not convinced by the benefits of spending the money. (My experience is that a successful CV is usually no more than 2 pages long, emphasises measurable achievements and gives evidence of ‘success’ reasons why a prospective employer would want to offer you a job. Tip: A good recruiter will help with your CV free of charge as it is in their interests to do so);
– Don’t underestimate the time investment: interviews, preparation, research, application forms and telephone calls all eat into your life;
I would suggest that you treat the process as a project. Keep a record of every job advert, every telephone call and every meeting so that all loose ends are tied up and so that you always remain in control;
So, your CV is prepared and you have decided to look seriously for a new job. What now? There are three main ways that CF professionals find a new role, although in reality most people will use a combination of the three:
– Contacting an employer directly
– Replying to a Company advert
– Using a recruitment company
Contacting an employer directly
My experience of the CF market is that professionals in this area rely heavily on personal contacts and they tend to directly approach an ex-colleague they know in this field. This is due to the relatively small number of people currently working in this area and the close-knit nature of the community, especially those currently in Law Enforcement or with a background in this area. This method is, in theory, a quick and easy way of finding a new job, so do contact old colleagues to find out if they know of any opportunities at their companies or with any of their contacts. If you are employed by a computer forensics organisation you should join F3 and use reunion/networking boards such as www.linkedin.com or www.friendsreunited.co.uk to re-establish old contacts. However, be aware that dealing with friends and contacts, it is easy to let emotion/loyalty and related factors cloud what is a business decision so I would always advise the following:
– Your future employer has saved the cost of advertising or using a recruitment company so use this saving to negotiate a better package for you;
– Ensure dates for salary reviews/bonus payments are written into your contract – when your contact leaves three months later your verbal agreements mean nothing;
– Take the time to look at other options, e.g., you may think the salary is superb but without the research you could find out 3 months later that you are earning 20% below standard market rates.
Although people will always find a new job via this method, as the profession continues to mature and grow it will certainly become less widespread than it is today.